Mumbai terror attack some : unanswered questions

November 28, 2008

  1. How many terrorists were there? Did they number 20 as Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told a press conference on Thursday? Or did they number many more? If two or three terrorists attacked the CST, how many terrorists were present at the Taj and Trident? Did the CST terrorists drop a grenade/explosive device at Dockyard Road on the way to the station? Or was someone else responsible for that act of terror which claimed three lives?

  1. The terrorists are said to have set up control rooms at the Taj and Trident hotels, a Cabinet minister told PTI on Thursday. When were these bookings made? A detailed investigation into the bookings made at both hotels in the months, weeks and days before the attacks may reveal the names of suspicious guests who registered there.

  1. Military sources tell rediff.com that there was no way the terrorists could have carried so much ammunition with them when they assaulted the two hotels with their guns blazing. They believe the ammunition may have been stored earlier in rooms at both the hotels, perhaps on the higher floors.

  1. If some of the terrorists had registered at the hotels earlier, could these men/women have left along with the guests who were released? Did the police record the identities and addresses of the guests who were released from both hotels?

  1. Indian Hotels Chairman Ratan Tata indicated on Thursday that the terrorists had intimate knowledge of the Taj, its service corridors, its layout. Does this mean that they had a mole inside the Taj? Or more worrying, did a couple of them work there at some point of time? Did they have drawings of the layout of the two hotels?

  1. If the terrorists were Pakistani, how did they have such an intimate knowledge of the terrain? The two or three cowards who attacked the CST on Wednesday night made their way from the CST through a road on the left side of The Times of India building towards the Cama and Albess hospital/Azad Maidan police station, a route that is known only to true-blood Mumbaikars. Were they locals? Or did they conduct extensive reconnisance of the likely routes of escape?

  1. These same two or three men, who are said to have commandeered ATS Chief Hemant Karkare’s police Qualis after shooting him, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar, revealed similar familiarity with the road outside the Esplanade Court, making an easy U-turn towards the Metro cinema junction rather than head on the road towards the CST. How did they know this if they were Pakistanis?

  1. How did those men, whose images have appeared all over the world, get to the CST from Colaba where they are said to have landed by boat? Did they take a taxi? Or did they have local transportation? Did they come by a suburban train, which could explain the firing on one of the suburban train platforms? Who left the grenade on the Gitanjali Express, which killed a Bengali mother?

  1. The terrorists are said to have done extensive reconnisance of the city. If they are Pakistanis, how did they get earlier entry to the city unnoticed? Did they come in by boat? Or did they use other routes to escape notice?

  1. Such an operation could not have been conducted without extensive training and preparation, possibly on models of the Taj and Trident or Chabad House/Nariman House. Could this have been achieved at the rudimentary training camps hosted by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Pakistan occupied Kashmir? Or was it a more systematised operation conducted by a State agency in a hostile country?

  1. How did they know Chabad House/Nariman House, which even long-time residents of Colaba — the area in South Mumbai where the Taj, the Leopold Cafe and Chabad/Nariman House are located — are unfamiliar with? The choice of this target indicates precision thinking — it is doubtful if the Lashkar strategists are capable of such deep strategy — and again points the needle of suspicion at a government intelligence agency in a nation inimical to India or renegades within such a bureau

Source: Rediff


Mumbai terrorist attack this is how it started

November 27, 2008

10:57 AM: Fire brigade personnel have started rescuing people from Taj Hotel. Top French Nuclear physicist has also been rescued from the hotel.

10:40 AM: Smoke has been seen billowing from the new building of the Taj Hotel — which stands next to the old building where terrorists are holed up. While NSG operation was on in the old building, fire brigade personnel were trying to douse fire in the new wing.

10:30 AM: The number of policemen killed has gone up to 16. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the nation after 7 PM after the Cabinet meeting. The Maharashtra state Cabinet will meet at 2 PM.

09:30 AM: Terrorist out in the open! A terrorist holed up inside Nariman House jumps to the adjacent building. Meanwhile, an emergency Cabinet meeting has been called at 1100 hours.

09:27 AM: IB has arrested a Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist of Pakistani origin from Mumbai. The e-mail sent after terror attacks has been traced to Russia Authorities say the mail was sent by Lashkar operatives. They also believe that the Lashkar terrorists came directly from Karachi to Mumbai.

09:30 AM: Firing has been heard near Nariman House in Colaba. Police have cordoned off the area amid reports that terrorists are holed up in the building.

09:09 AM: Curfew has been clamped in Colaba after firing intensified in the Taj hotel. Police are using smoke cannisters to disable terrorists’ vision. Meanwhile, Hostages are being evacuated from the Taj hotel even as gunbattle rages. A journalist has been injured in the firing. All international flights from Mumbai have been cancelled.

08:55 AM: Agencies have reported that terrorists are holed up inside the Cama Hospital. Commandoes have started firing at terrorists.

08:05 AM: Fresh firing erupted early on Thursday in Taj hotel as commandos moved in to flush out terrorists holding some foreigners hostage.

Sharp shooters of army, NSG and other security forces moved into Mumbai’s landmark hotel. Police believe that the number of holed out terrorists could be three or four.

Another luxury hotel Trident (formerly Oberoi) was under siege with some terrorists holding some foreigners hostage.

07:50 AM: More grim news is coming in from Taj Hotel, where several staff members have been feared killed in the terrorist attack.

Over 100 guests are still stuck inside the hotel, where two terrorists are reportedly holed up.

At Nariman House in Colaba, onlookers informed that the police exchanged fire about an hour ago.

The place looked like a riot-hit site, swarming with police officials and military trucks. Most people have been holed up here since an explosion shook the area at 10.30 pm.

The explosion occurred when the terrorists lobbed hand grenades at the local petrol pump. The blast was followed by a gunfight between police forces and the terrorists.

Taj burns

06:20 AM: The hostage crisis continued at Taj Hotel in the wee hours of Thursday as Army commandos moved in to flush out the terrorists.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh assured that there was no hostage situation at Cama Hospital in South Mumbai.

An Army commando was reportedly injured in the shoot-out. An explosion was also reported in the lobby of the Taj Hotel

04: 23 AM: Vaihayasi Pande-Daniel reports that the fire that engulfed the old wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai has been put out. Though the major conflagration has been contained, flames continue to flicker, occasionally leaping into life, at the corner of the heritage wing.

Police and fire brigade personnel have placed ladders against the side of the building, and are bringing hotel guests out through that means. Some foreigners who had been evacuated were being ferried to a nearby hospital for first aid, while others are being taken by bus to alternate accommodations. Officials here estimate that most of the guests inside the hotel have been evacuated.

Commandos of the Indian navy meanwhile have staked out vantage points covering all exit points, while others of their number prowl around the perimeter of the hotel.

A group of Taj employees stood clustered on the pavement opposite the hotel, staring at the hotel through tear-filled eyes. They had been told to leave, they said but clearly, they could not bring themselves to walk away from a hotel that, to them and to most Mumbaikars, is shared heritage than mere hotel.

Elsewhere, an attractive young woman attempted to restore some semblance of order to her silver-zari sari. She was drenched, and still disoriented from her experiences of the night.

“We were partying, and suddenly there was firing all over,” the woman, who had just been evacuated by ladder from a window some 30 feet up, recalled. “I’d read about such things in the paper, and routinely turned the page but when it happens to you, when you experience it”

03: 57 AM: Though the firefight at the Oberoi is still far from finished, the takeover of the operation by units of the Indian Army appears to have taken the South Mumbai hotel off the ‘critical’ list.

Vaihayasi Pande-Daniel reports for Rediff that most of the one dozen fire trucks that had been stationed around the Oberoi have been dispatched to the Taj Mahal Hotel, where a blazing fire threatens to devastate the old wing of the iconic hotel.
Daniel cites police sources as saying the army commandoes are doing a systematic sweep of the hotel, lobbing grenades ahead of them to take out hidden dangers before securing each successive wing of the hotel.

The constant bang of grenades from within the hotel continues to alarm the crowds gathered outside the hotel, and kept at a distance by police. Not all of them have come to gape, however. Vadhavan, a businessman from New Delhi, sits in rumpled attire on the parapet of Marine Drive, trying to stay awake.

He had arrived in Mumbai this evening at the head of a 13-member business delegation. He was in the act of checking into the Oberoi when the firing began. “I think the shooting started at the Oberoi,” says Vadhavan. “They ushered us all out through a side entrance and told us to leave. I got separated from the rest of my group; I think they are waiting on the other side of the hotel.”

The flushing out operation is far from finished; Vadhavan’s wait threatens to extend through what remains of this night.

3:42 AM: At the Taj Hotel, where a joint operation involving the Mumbai police, the Central Reserve Police Force and a commando group from the Navy is engaged in flushing out terrorists within the premises, PTI reports that almost all the guests have been brought out to safety at the time of writing this.

The situation continues to remain dangerous, however, with an indeterminate number of terrorists within the hotel, two of whom are believed to be holding a group of tourists hostage on an upper floor.

Meanwhile, the fire that erupted in the old wing of the historic hotel has spread alarmingly. The fire now burns bright across at least two mid-level floors of the old wing, and thick clouds of black smoke spew from the signature minaret that crowns the hotel’s roof.

03: 06 AM: A little over four hours since gunshots first erupted at the CST railway terminal, and coordinated terrorist attacks spread to various parts of South Bombay, the situation remains fluid.

At the Taj Mahal Hotel, a contingent of Navy commandos has joined the police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel attempting to enter the hotel and flush out the terrorists. From within the hotel, word is that occasional explosions, and sporadic gunfire, continue at the time of writing this.

At the Oberoi Hotel, the army has taken over the operation and entered the hotel; it is now reportedly engaged in flushing out the terrorists hiding within.

At the Cama Hospital, a specialty medical center for women and children, official sources say terrorists are holed up on the fourth floor and have been firing from that vantage point. Police have surrounded the hospital and are engaging the terrorists in an ongoing gun battle.

02:50 AM: Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and Member of Parliament N N Krishnadas, who is staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel, reports that as late as 2:10 AM, explosions could be heard from within the premises.

Krishnadas told CNN that he is holed up in a room, and outside of the noise of explosions and gunfire has no real idea what is happening within the premises.

Meanwhile, the fire that broke out in one of the hotel’s middle floors has been spreading upwards, adding a fresh hazard both to the police and CRPF personnel engaged in the anti-terrorist operation and to the guests within the hotel.

Even as police sources upped the toll in today’s terrorist strikes in Mumbai at 80 and counting, police continue to lay siege to the Taj Mahal Hotel, where two terrorists are believed to be holding at least 15 guests hostage on one of the upper floors of the hotel.

The police are at this point in time unsure whether the two hostage takers are the only terrorists within the hotel.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army has moved into the Oberoi and the Trident, the two other South Mumbai hotels targeted in today’s terrorist strikes.

A battalion of the Indian army entered the Oberoi and began an operation against the terrorists holed up inside. The army was called in after the police took several casualties, including the deaths of some senior officers.

With the army now in charge of this phase of the operation the first time the Indian army is operating in the city since the 1992 riots the police has fallen back and is focusing on cordoning off the area.

Vaihayasi Pande-Daniel, reporting for Rediff.com from outside the Oberoi Hotel, reports that with the cordon being drawn tight, people waiting outside are in a state of panic, and desperately searching for information. A group of senior bankers from Hyderabad are among those inside the hotel to attend a conference; their Mumbai-based colleagues are outside, awaiting word of their fate.

02: 25 AM: Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare died of bullet wounds in the ongoing battle against armed terrorists that is raging across several parts of South Mumbai.

Vijay Salaskar, an officer attached to the Mumbai police who has been famed as an ‘encounter specialist’, was seriously injured in the ongoing gun battle and has been rushed to hospital. In all, seven Mumbai policemen are believed killed thus far.

Meanwhile, Railway Police Chief Ashok Sharma told Rediff.com that at least 40 people were killed inside Mumbai’s nodal Chatrapathi Sivaji Terminus. “The attack started around 9.35 pm,” Sharma said. “Two terrorists were inside. We can confirm at least 40 people killed.”

It is yet unclear whether the terrorists are still on-site, have left, or been killed. Sharma said there had been no firing from within the terminus for the last two hours. “Despite this, we are not allowing people to go into the station as we are worried that the terrorists might have planted bombs or left live grenades in the station,” he said.

Sharma said the official belief is that the two terrorists had sneaked out of the station in the confusion following the original assault.

Sudhir Dalvi, a sub-inspector attached to the Mumbai cell of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, told Sheela Bhatt for Rediff.com that his boss, ATS chief Hemant Karkare, and senior police officers Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte, were killed in an incident outside Mumbai’s Cama Hospital.

“Our chief Karkare, my senior officer Salaskar and ACP Kamte died while engaging terrorists outside the Cama hospital,” a sobbing Dalvi told Rediff.com. “All of a sudden, terrorists threw grenades at Karkare leading to chaos. We are unable to confirm whether they fell to terrorist fire or were killed by the grenades.”

Meanwhile, the army has moved into the Trident Hotel, the third five-star hotel in the South Mumbai region that had been targeted in tonight’s coordinated terrorist strikes.

02:10 AM: It is now believed that 15 people, at least seven of them foreigners, have been taken hostage by two terrorists and are being held on the roof of the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Rakesh Patel, a London-based businessman who managed to escape, told NDTV that the two terrorists, estimated to be in their early 20s, came to a restaurant on the ground floor of the Taj, rounded up the hostages and took them to the 18th floor. Patel, who was one among them, managed at that point to escape.

Patel said the terrorists asked if any of the hostages were carrying American or British passports, and said he got the clear impression that they wanted foreigners.

01:50 AM: Krishnakumar reports from the Juhu region that a bomb went off in a taxi that was speeding along the Western Express Highway from Vile Parle towards Andheri, killing two people and injuring two others.

“The taxi exploded and went up in flames as it sped past the traffic island under the flyover at the domestic airport,” an eyewitness said on phone. “The vehicle, which was up in flames soon after it crossed the traffic signal, was on the left
side. A bystander and a person in the taxi were killed.

Reports indicate that this was perhaps the night’s highest-intensity blast. Krishnakumar reports that the taxi’s doors were found a distance of 50 meters or more away, and body parts of the victims had been thrown even further.

01:43 AM: At least two suspected terroristswere shot dead minutes earlier at the corner of Mumbai’s Chowpatty. Rediff’s Vaihayasi Pande-Daniel, who is on the site, reports that the area has been cordoned off and is swarming with police officers; the Skoda is under guard and a cellphone, a jacket, and items of footwear are strewn around the vehicle.

Meanwhile at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the standoff between police, who have surrounded the hotel, and terrorists who are holed up inside, continues.

A short while ago, power went off in parts of the hotel, adding to the sense of panic and fear. Well known food critic Sabina Sahgal Saikia, who is inside the hotel, told NDTV on phone just now that the guests are terrified, and unaware of just what is happening around them. It is unclear at this point in time whether the power has been turned off by the police as they battle the terrorists.

01:27 AM: Rediff’s Vaihayasi Pande Daniel calls in from the Marine Drive region to report that the approaches to the South Mumbai area have been shut down, and that sounds of firing are audible as far away as Mumbai’s famed Queen’s Necklace stretch, though the source of the firing is unclear.

Meanwhile, a foreign national who managed to escape from the Taj Mahal Hotel, where a state of seige currently exists, told NDTV that armed and masked gunmen were wandering around inside the hotel, looking for people with American or British passports.

The eyewitness account appears to confirm the growing belief among law enforcement circles that this latest attack is aimed directly at foreign nationals — hence the choice of star hotels as prime targets. They further theorize that automatic weapons are being used rather than bombs in order to orchestrate such targeted mayhem.

Meanwhile, the real dangers of the situation are being exaggerated by a proliferation of rumors. One such that has been aired on a few channels including CNN suggested that firing was taking place at the JW Marriott, another five star hotel in the Juhu region of suburban Mumbai. A source in the hotel however confirmed to Rediff just now that there was no alarm at the hotel, and no incident of any kind had taken place.

12:44 AM: A gun battle is ongoing in the Taj Hotel in Colaba. Within the last ten minutes, a guest at the hotel got word out to CNN via email that a grenade had exploded within the hotel premises just then.

Additional Commissioner of Police AN Roy and other officials confirmed that some armed terrorists are holed up in the iconic hotel.

Police officials said they have no information of a hostage situation; they say guests have been sequestered in safe areas of the hotel, and the police are now engaged in flushing out the terrorists from their hiding place.

Source: Rediff


Ahmedabad after Bangalore: Glaring lapses

July 28, 2008
An audacious attack in Ahmedabad, barely a day after serial blasts in India’s IT capital Bangalore, leads us to several obvious questions.

Is India now a sitting duck for terrorists? What is causing these men to attack India at will and get away with it?

Also, what about the role of intelligence agencies and the network formed to be in the know of any such attacks?

How could Ahmedabad be targeted hours after Bangalore?

What lessons have we learnt from similar attacks in the past and why have there been no conclusive breakthroughs?

There are more questions than answers.

Let us take a look at the first intelligence lapse that occurred. The Gujarat blasts took place within hours of nationwide alert after Bangalore blasts.

How could 16 bomb blasts take place in Ahmedabad when the entire country was on high alert?

In Ahmedabad, most bombs were placed on cycles and went off within a short time span like in Bangalore, Jaipur, Uttar Pradesh and Malegaon.

The second lapse was that the groups of serial bombers could not be traced.

It takes several people to carry out a serial blast, so how come they can’t be traced? And even those who provide them logistical support like houses, phones and transport could not be traced.

Modi and Gujarat are prime targets of the terror since the 2002 riots. How could intelligence agencies not even get a whiff of such an elaborate network? This was the third lapse on the part of the intelligence.

For the last three years, terrorists have been making minimal use of telecommunication devices before and after each strike, making it difficult for security agencies to track them.

Had there been a strong human intelligence network or local policing, things would have been easier. And this constitutes the fourth lapse.

And People like A S Dullat, former secretary of RAW and director of Intelligence Bureau, who have spent their entire life tracking terror, feel something is definitely wrong.

“It is very evident that there is an intelligence failure. I think there is a need to do a threat assessment of metros. For instance, leaders and state governments should take terror more seriously and not just depend on what is given to them,” said Dullat.

Under pressure, this is exactly what the Centre intends to do. Home Minister Shivraj Patil will meet chief ministers of all states, hoping to push through police modernisation and reforms. The Intelligence Bureau too will be upgraded.

Police reforms would in no doubt help but the big question is whether states would agree and more importantly how long will it take?